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Koreatown Gets Its Own Brew Pub

Tradition and the future meet at Rosen Brewery Restaurant, where you can get red lager, seasonal brews and, yes, rice wine.

February 01, 2001|CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Koreatown is full of surprises. Just a few blocks apart down Western Avenue there's a restaurant/recording studio, where you can record yourself singing karaoke as you dine. And here at Rosen Brewery Restaurant, Koreatown now has its own brew pub.

It features the obligatory futuristic look: burnished industrial brew tanks under dramatic spotlights, a huge video screen continuously showing thrillers and sci-fi movies (without their soundtracks--the sonic background here is pounding rock music). It's designed like a huge amphitheater of tables looking down on a stagy bar flanked by huge square columns of field stone, from which spring a vast arc of violet light panels. Like many bars in the area, Rosen Brewery draws a lot of Korean-speaking twentysomethings, but Koreatown is proud of this impressive place and you also see second-generation Korean Americans and older diners, and a surprising number of Europeans.

Pub habits die hard, so Rosen has been obliged to provide a paper menu of traditional Korean pub snacks (anju), such as ttok bokki, chewy cylindrical rice cakes with cabbage in a peppery red sauce. The basic menu, though, is in the eclectic California style, and very nicely done.

Take the grilled chicken-breast skewers in a tangy garlic and tamarind glaze. They come with a shredded cabbage and carrot salad, as do the crab cakes--thin ones with a good crab flavor, fried quite brown and served with whole-seed mustard sauce.

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In addition to Caesar and Cobb salads, there's the Rosen hummus salad--a big pile of greens mixed with roasted peppers, Kalamata olives and rich goat cheese, served on a thin flatbread still warm from the pizza oven. It's enjoyable, though the scoop of hummus on the side is rather bland.

The pizza list includes familiar choices such as pepperoni and ham/pineapple, all with thin crusts. There's a good one with a light, balanced topping of Thai chicken, bean sprouts, carrots and green onions mixed with a little barbecue sauce. Another, topped with artichoke hearts, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, portabello mushrooms and arugula, tastes mostly of the artichoke hearts.

In true fusion style, Rosen's menu has a section of pastas (e.g., goat cheese ravioli) that also lists some stir fries: Mongolian beef or cashew chicken. And there's a very decent hamburger, with a medium-thick patty that's so lean it's dense and a bit dry, but very beefy. It comes with French fries sprinkled with garlic and parsley.

Potatoes and garlic tend to go together here--many entrees come with garlicky mashed potatoes. For instance, the steaks: filet mignon, New York and hanger. The hanger steak, a hip '80s cut known as the butcher's steak because butchers tend to take them home for themselves, is quite tender (with some chewier parts) and has a rich steak flavor.

Pork ribs come with the potatoes too, and a sweet Asian barbecue sauce. The herb-roasted chicken (with the potatoes again) is very flavorful, if just a bit heavy on the rosemary.

Fish, however, comes with rice. In the case of the seared ahi, accompanied by Chinese cabbage and ponzu sauce, the rice is strikingly topped with a sweet candied ginger sauce ("I could make this!" exclaimed a Korean American friend when she tasted it, her eyes full of crafty speculation). The best dish I've had is the grilled BBQ salmon, a nicely cooked piece of fish with a barbecue sauce which seems to be plum sauce spiked with hot red pepper puree. For a really loud sauce, it goes remarkably well with the fish.

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Dessert is scarcely the point at a brew pub, and Rosen Brewery has just threechoices: a luscious flan sprinkled with shredded coconut, a creme bru^lee with a good coffee flavor (it's a little runny in the middle, though) and a couple of plain sorbets.

What is the point, of course, is the beer. The Korean taste is for rather mild, some would say watery, lagers, and that's the basic lager Rosen Brewery makes. But it also makes a respectable stout and a quite good ale-like red lager, not to mention seasonal brews. And if you can't imagine coming to K-Town without having rice wine--or a martini--Rosen plays it safe and offers a full bar.

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* Rosen Brewery Restaurant, 400 S. Western Ave., L.A. (213) 388-0061. Dinner 3:30 p.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Full bar. Valet parking at lot on 4th Street. All major cards. Appetizers and light dishes, $4.50-$11.95; dinner entrees, $13.95-$17.95.

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* What to get: crab cake, chicken skewers, Rosen salad, BBQ salmon, seared ahi, roasted chicken, Rosen burger, coffee creme bru^lee, Sunset red lager.

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